It’s that time of year – heaps of apples, pears and the last of the stone fruits, mountains of squash, pumpkin and bumper crops from local producers. The harvest in the Okanagan Valley is a literal cornucopia of local producers and artisan makers. A fall road trip in the Okanagan is a must before the snow sets in on the mountain passes. Keep reading for your trip through the valley with BC’s Guide to Arts and Culture.
Your journey of delightfully autumn experiences begins in Osoyoos, one of the Southern most cities on this Okanagan Valley journey. This tourist destination is bustling in the summertime, but come the fall months, you’ll experience the lingering warmth of the Canadian desert summer in this lakefront town steeped in smalltown vibes. Playing minigolf with the backdrop of an Okanagan autumn sunset is one of the more memorable experiences to be had at this time of year.
Explore the spiritual and historical nature of this land at the artful and architecturally astounding Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. A destination unlike any other in the region, the Nk’Mip Cultural Centre is built into the hillside and home to theatre spaces, galleries, and a reconstructed Indigenous village.
North of Osoyoos (about a 20 minute drive) visit the town of Oliver. Called the wine capital of Canada, Oliver is a unique destination in the Okanagan. Basque in the afterglow of a plentiful harvest season as farms wrap up their season.
Heading North on the 97 come into Penticton. Nestled between the Northern tip of the Skaha Lake and the Southernmost end of the Okanagan Lake, Penticton is an iconic Okanagan destination for travelers from all walks of life. Alive with a bustling creative community, Penticton is a place where you’ll want to spend some time exploring the local scene. Begin your stay in Penticton at the unique and culturally immersive Cormier’s Studio Art Gallery and Guest Suites where sculpture Lawrence Cormier and mixed media artist Kena Cumming Cormier host a top tier bed and breakfast amidst their own active art studio. From your cozy stay at the Cormier’s you can explore Penticton’s art scene. Start at the Lloyd Gallery where artworks from Canadian artists range from entry level to established and well collected artists. Explore the exhibition space in the Lier House, the heritage building that is home to the Penticton Arts Council. With events and gatherings happening throughout the week, be sure to check what they’re up to during your visit. Stop in at one of many of Penticton’s great local coffee shops for artisanal baked goods made with local fare and an espresso drink before heading on to the Penticton Art Gallery for their latest exhibition and over to The Long Gallery – home of the work of 11 local artists. Round off your morning in Penticton with a stop at the Penticton Museum and Archives to learn about the history of the South Okanagan before heading up the Eastern shore of the lake through the winding vineyard roads to the sleepy town of Naramata.
Along the Naramata Bench you’ll be hard pressed not to spend the entire afternoon cruising from one winery, distillery or cheesemaker to the next. Each local stop is but a stones throw from the last making this stretch of your journey through the Okanagan a good time for a lazy afternoon bike cruise up and down the bench.
Leaving Penticton, your next visit will be in the busy urban centre of Kelowna where you can explore local galleries and artist studios in Kelowna’s aptly named Cultural District right at the heart of downtown. Be sure to spend some time ‘playing in the mud’ with Bonnie Anderson of Potters Addict Ceramic Art Centre or pick up a memorable ceramic crafted by a local artist.
From Kelowna, head up the 97 toward the culturally prolific city of Vernon. If you’re taking the drive in early fall, on the way North, you’ll want to check out the Lake Country Artwalk which takes place in September. Regardless of the time of year, take a pit stop in Lake Country for a cup of tea and a visit to the Lake Country Art Gallery where regular programming and exhibitions introduce you to the artists of the area.
Finish your Okanagan tour with a day and night in Vernon where heritage, arts and culture are as much a part of the experience as the surrounding natural beauty. While planning your trip, be sure to book in to one of Vernon’s unique and cozy places to stay and experience Vernon’s Art of the Getaway. Once you’ve settled in, it’s time to “Activate your imagination” and explore the city’s many arts and cultural hot spots. Starting with a historical context and visit the Mackie House and the iconic Historic O’Keefe Ranch on the outskirts of town, and heading to the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives, and the Caetani Cultural Centre, housed in a historic 126 year old building, you’ll get a picture of the history of Vernon to inform your experience of the arts and culture blossoming here.
Exploring the arts, begin at the Vernon Public Art Gallery, where year round exhibitions provide a look at what’s happening on the art scene in the region. Vernon Community Arts Centre is open to the public to shop for locally produced goods, or to take an art class taught by a resident artist. As you tour downtown, you’ll notice Vernon’s Heritage Murals all over town. While you’re here, make the most of the experience by checking the itinerary for Vernon’s Festivals and Events taking place throughout the year and check the calendar on your dates for what’s happening at the Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre.
With many major players in the city, there are as many smaller scale cultural sites and galleries that are open to the public to spend time exploring. Nadine’s Fine Art Gallery is a trove of some of Vernon’s most popular artists in a quaint and curated setting. The Artist run collective at Gallery Vertigo is a unique space with two galleries and an artful library reading nook. The Headbones Gallery is a one of a kind in the region specializing in the curation and sales of works on paper from over 100 artists. Wrap up your day in Vernon with a trip to Silverstar resort and a stop at one more original gallery – Gallery Odin is housed in a beautiful victorian style home showcasing and selling the art of recognized Okanagan artists. Have a meal on the mountain and enjoy the spectacular array of fall-coloured arboreal views before heading out of town.
Your autumn escapades in the Okanagan will call you back year after year to experience the scent of the orchard and the vine, the pristine pastoral views between its small towns, and the incredible bounty of the Valley at this time of harvest and quiet in BC’s Southern Interior.
For more adventures, be sure to connect with us on social media @artbcguide across platforms and share your roadtrips with us by tagging us on your adventures. Until next time, enjoy #SuperculturalBC.